Haywood, Margaret A. 1912–
Margaret A. Haywood 1912–
The Honorable Margaret A. Haywood, senior judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, is perhaps best known for her work as counsel in the epochal Thompson Restaurant case, which went to the U. S. Supreme Court and resulted in the decision that ended segregated restaurant operation in the District of Columbia. On June 23, 1973, while she was an associate judge of the Superior Court of the D. C., she was elected the first female to head the United Church of Christ and the first African American woman to lead a major U.S. denomination.
Born Margaret Austin in Knoxville, Tennessee on October 8,1912, Haywood is the only child of Mayme F. and Jonathan William Austin. While Margaret was still a girl, the family moved to D.C., where her father was serving as financial secretary of a large fraternal order. Hanging around this office is where she plodded at typing practice and developed an interest in becoming a lawyer. Haywood credits her father for having inspired her interest in law. Her father was associated with the late Attorney Benjamin Gaskins and former Judge Walter C. Hueston, and she spent evenings after school around their offices. Not only was she intrigued by legal operations, but mastered typing and the operation of other office machinery.
The most influential person in Haywood’s life was her father, Jonathan William Austin, who died in 1959. He encouraged her to attend Cardozo High School. Haywood was one of the first pupils to attend Cardozo High School studying business. Later, it was also her father who encouraged her to attend the Robert H. Terrell Law School in Washington, D.C.
After getting her degree from Terrell Law School in 1940, Haywood gave five years service as a volunteer teacher at Terrell. The Terrell Law School was organized by practicing attorneys who gave voluntary services as instructors, however, it had accreditation problems because of the lack of full-time professors. It was eventually phased out as black law students were admitted to other institutions.
Before beginning her law practice, the attractive Haywood, nic-named “Peggy,” was able to work in secretarial positions because of the strong typing skills she developed in her father’s law office. In 1942, she began
Born Margaret Austin, October 8, 1912, in Knox ville, Tennessee. Divorced. Children: Geraldine H. Hoffman. Education: Robert H. Terrell Law School, 1940
Career: Senior Superior Court Judge. General Practice Attorney, 1940–72; DC Council, Member 1967–72; Superior Court District of Columbia, Associate Judge, 1972–82; Senior Judge 1982-
Awards: Cited Lambda Kappa Mu, Outstanding Sorority of Year, 1947,1968,1972; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Trophy, 1950; one of America’s Outstanding Women, National Council of Negro Women, 1951; elected to Afro-American Newspaper Honor Roll, 1951 ; Sigma Delta Tau, Outstanding Professional Service, 1957; National Bar Association Award, 1968; Woman of Year, Oldest Inhabitants, 1969; Woman Lawyer of Year, Women’s Bar Association, 1972; DC Women’s Commission, Trophy, Hall of Fame Inductee; Washington Bar Association, Charles Hamilton Medallion of Merit for Contribution to Jurisprudence, 1980; Honorary Degrees: Elmhurst College, Humanics, 1974; Carleton College, DHL, 1975; Cataw-ba College, DL, 1976; Doane College, DL, 1979; Numerous other awards and honorary degrees.
Addresses: Office —Senior Judge, Superior Court of the District of Columbia; 500 Indiana Avenue NW, 5520, Washington, DC 20001. Home—100 Coast Blvd., La Jolla, CA 92037–4601.
practicing law with the noted firm of Houston, Houston, and Hastie. In April of 1954, Haywood was selected as ‘Woman of Achievement For the Year’ by the Barristers Wives of Washington, D.C.
Before receiving the award from the Barristers Wives, Haywood had already won several awards and trophies. In 1951, she was recognized as “One of America’s Outstanding Women” by the National Council of Negro Women. She has since won numerous awards and honorary degrees for her outstanding work as an attorney and for her community involvement. Her awards include, the 1968 “National Bar Association Award,” the 1972 “Woman Lawyer of Year, Women’s Bar Association,” the “DC Women’s Commission, Trophy, Hall of Fame Inductee,” and the 1980 Washington Bar Association, Charles Hamilton Medallion of Merit for Contribution to Jurisprudence” among many others.
In May of 1945, Margaret A. Haywood was sworn in as an Associate Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia by Chief Justice Harlan Fiske Stone. The Pittsburgh Courier quoted Haywood as saying, “That was the most thrilling experience I have ever known.” After Haywood had been practicing law for 25 years, she was named by President Lyndon B. Johnson to the post of D. C. Councilwoman. In reference to the D. C. Council appointment, The Washington Post quoted Haywood as saying, “I feel I am part of history.” Haywood’s first inkling that she was being considered for the post came from President Johnson himself. She was ushered into the President’s office at the White House, and the first thing President Johnson asked Mrs. Haywood was how long she had lived in Washington. The Washington Post quoted Haywood as saying, “I was so nervous, I couldn’t count. I just told him I was 55 years and I’d lived in the District since I was eight. He just grinned at me and said I’d lived here 47 years. He knew his arithmetic, all right.”
Haywood had an intense feeling about keeping her work current, she preferred having meals sent to the office or grabbing a sandwich at a snack bar and eating while driving rather than spending time eating in a restaurant. In addition to her busy work schedule, Haywood is known to be very active in the community. She has served as president of the Gamma Delta Epsilon (legal) Fraternity, president of the Theta Chapter, Lambda Kappa Mu, Business and Professional Women’s Sorority, second vice president of the Washington Bar Association, and. active with the Washington Urban League and in numerable other community programs.”
Haywood’s church life has not suffered because of her busy schedule. In fact, she has managed to compliment one with the other. She is chair of the governing committee of the institute of church and society of the Greater Washington Council of Churches, a group whose role she describes as “acquainting church members with public issues where moral positions should be explored.” stated the Washington Post. One such issue was the Administration’s Reorganization plan for the District. As a result of her church committee’s study, a communication was forwarded to the President, approving the plan and urging that he go forward with it. The Washington Post quoted Haywood as saying, “We did say, however, that our goal is still home rule, but this was a step in the right direction.” On June 23, 1973, Margaret Austin Haywood was elected the first woman to head the United Church of Christ and the first African American female to lead a major U. S. denomination.”
Haywood’s “sweet” personality is an asset, causing people of all walks of life to be fond of her. When Haywood went to L’Enfant Plaza for the ceremony dedicating the 10th Street Overlook site as Benjamin Baneker Park, she was greeted with a fond kiss by the mayor; and also received cheery welcomes by her fellow platform guests at the ceremony. An even more revealing glimpse of the kind of person Margaret Haywood really is, comes when she enters the U. S. District Court record office where she is hailed good-heartedly by the clerks and other staffers. According to an article in the Evening Star and Daily News, when Haywood left her post as a Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board member fellow subway agency directors gave her a fond farewell. The article says that one of the farewell gifts Haywood received was a piece of the original Metro track-the piece of track was a one-inch cross-section, suitable for keeping on one’s desk.
Even a person like Haywood, who seems to be able to get along with most people has had to deal with racism. When asked about Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm’s comment that “she has suffered more discrimination as a woman than racial discrimination,” Haywood told The Washington Post, “I was my father’s little boy,’ so my whole outlook may have been different from that of the average girl. I have never called on men to make a difference in their proceedings because I was present. For two years I was the only woman in my law classes and the guys just thought of me as one of the fellows. In my … years of law practice, there may have been occasions of discrimination from fellow lawyers or judges, but they would have to have been very limited.” Haywood admits her experience may not be the norm, and added, “I respect this as being unusual, because in many instances women have felt differential treatment. Racially, of course, I have felt discrimination much more so than any against women.”
In her paper, entitled “The Modern Challenge to Women in Law,” Haywood writes, “…no lawyer who is a woman, fails in awareness that while the problems of her community really are more largely human than merely racial, yet racism contributes so dangerously to inhumanities that it is folly to let it exist!! …she (the woman lawyer) then must take her case to the community. She becomes, as public servant and public spirited citizen, advocate of the community—for it and against it—for its improvement and against its self-destruction”.
With all Haywood’s career and community activities, it’s hard to believe she was just as busy at home. During the height of Haywood’s career, along with her many professional obligations, she successfully maintained a happy home for her husband and daughter. Haywood usually does the cooking at home on Sundays and holidays, and is a wiz with a backyard grill. She gourmet cooks with seafoods, meats, and casseroles. When time permits, Haywood also enjoys sewing and apparently is quite good at it. Haywood once used a gift of Chinese silk to make herself an outfit to wear to a banquet.
Age has not stopped Haywood’s activity, nor her achievements. As recently as 1991, Haywood was one of the recipients of “the annual ‘Women of Achievement’ award from the D.C. Federation of Business & Professional Women Inc. Today, at age 88, The Honorable Margaret A. Haywood maintains an office in Washington, D. C. and also works in La Jolla, California, where she now lives.
Stuber, Irene, Women of Achievement and Herstory, Episode 329, June 23, 1995.
Capitol Spotlight, April 22, 1954.
Evening Star and Daily News, July 14, 1972.
Pittsburgh Courier, February 2, 1946
Washington A fro-American, January 1, 1972, June 9, 1945.
Washington Post, 1968, 1971, 1991.
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